Driveways (2020) May 25, 2020 12:50:21 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on May 25, 2020 12:50:21 GMT -5
Directed by: Andrew Ahn
Directed by: Andrew Ahn
Brian Dennehy and Lucas Jaye.
As someone whose hermetic aunt with pack-rat tendencies just passed away earlier this year, Driveways hit closer-to-home moreso than I was expecting. The fact that its release comes not even a month after the death of esteemed character-actor Brian Dennehy makes it all the more poignant. A quiet film whose litany of small moments add up to a larger whole, Andrew Ahn's sophomore effort is a sneakily dense film about the value of intergenerational friendships and taking time in being comfortable in your own skin.
We follow Kathy (Hong Chau, Downsizing), a single mother with a young son named Cody (Lucas Jaye, Fuller House), who venture to a sleepy New York suburb to clean out the home of her late sister. Having not been close with her sister as an adult, Kathy is beside herself to learn that she lived the life of a hoarder, engulfed by her own possessions, many of which worthless. The house is so cluttered, complete with food cartons and a dead cat, that cleaning and refurbishing it is going to be a longer process than initially expected.
Their unexpected extended stay leads them to interact with the nosy neighbors, one of whom is Linda (Christine Ebersole), a well-meaning but prying grandmother to two aggressive young boys that are a stark contrast to the timid Cody. The other two neighborhood children with whom Cody interacts are milder and try to push him to discovering Manga. But the one townie who leaves a mark on Cody from the jump is Del (Dennehy), an elderly Korean War veteran who spends his days on his front porch, playing bingo at the VFW hall, or simply minding his business after the passing of his wife. Cody is a fledgling old soul, moved by quietness and introspective conversations, which Del treats him to following an understandable degree of apprehension from Kathy.
There's a serene level of hopefulness in Driveways that permits its narrative to move at a glacial pace and allow these relationships to build over the course of 77 blissful minutes. The film has a similar quality to Hearts of Atlantis, one of my favorites I've seen so far this year, minus the underlying thriller infused from the Stephen King novella. It's primarily about the way a young boy can find solace in a grandfatherly relationship with a random old-timer; as well as how that same old-timer can find a slice of happiness by eating popcorn and reading the paper on the front steps with the same boy. Still not entirely done grieving the death of his wife, Del comes to realize both him and Cody are searching for the same thing: some companionship in a world that's ostensibly becoming increasingly isolated. Del later admits he only saw Cody's aunt a handful of times and one of which was shortly after his wife passed.
It's inspiring when a film can make small moments feel grandiose just by observing common human behavior of empathy and inclusion. Perhaps it's also because it feels like our world bears less and less of it by the day. The strongest example of this in Driveways could be Cody's birthday party, which is ostensibly doom to fail from the jump seeing as he doesn't have many friends his age and is especially lonely in this new environment. Nonetheless, his mother commits to having a party for him at a local roller rink. Despite sending some invites to the people on their block, no one shows up, until Del proves to be a late arrival. Cody remarks about how loud it is at the rink. Del has an idea. He takes Kathy and Cody to the VFW hall and elbows his way into letting the young Cody sit in on his war buddies' bingo game. Cody even aids one of Del's friends (Jerry Adler, The Sopranos) who has early onset dementia in helping him seek out the right numbers. Later he tells his Manga-loving neighborhood friends about his birthday at the VFW. "Everyone was drinking beer!," he innocently exclaims.
The material is further sold by its great cast, who span multiple generations and backgrounds. Hong Chau, who worked well in Downsizing despite the rocky screenplay not doing her character many favors, gets a grounded role that permits her to be relatable. Kathy grinds daily, often in an unromantic fashion, trying to better herself in her pursuit to become a nurse and acclimate her son to the cold but honest challenges of the real world. Chau does a lovely job and will be someone to continue to watch going forward. Beyond that, Dennehy is given one of hopefully several posthumous pictures that places his warmth and everyman charisma at the forefront, while Jaye exudes the sensitivity necessary to emphasize a degree of childhood innocence that's often so engrossing to witness. Driveways is a cozy, inviting movie, even in its occasionally darker moments.
NOTE: Driveways is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, and YouTube.
Starring: Lucas Jaye, Hong Chau, Brian Dennehy, Christine Ebersole, and Jerry Adler. Directed by: Andrew Ahn.